While it may be a line from one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs, it is where our country is going with education. And it is a very scary thing. I have a child in first grade in the public school system in Eugene, OR. My husband and I bought a house in the neighborhood where we live because the public schools were good. We were excited at the prospect of actually being able to send our children through neighborhood public schools. Now that prospect is looking dim. Very dim. And Americans seem only superficially concerned. They seem concerned only when it actually touches their lives very directly. But they don’t seem to care that we as a nation have NOT put our money where are mouths are, and while we talk the education talk, we have time and time again over the last 40 years not walked the walk. All over the USA you can track ballot measures and propositions over the past 30-40 years that have consistently taken money away from schools. Over and over again we as parents are shocked and appalled that our schools aren’t funded well, but we as voters DON’T actually vote to fund them. I don’t usually rant and rave on my blog, and rarely do I get into politics on my blog, but I feel do disillusioned and fed up, I needed somewhere to rant.
Unless something drastic happens in Oregon, and in the town where I live, my kids are NOT going to have a good public education. Last year the Eugene school district was down over 5 million dollars in budget. This year, the budget was down more than $15 million. Next year? Next year we are looking at a budget that will be over $30 million dollars down from this year. And the prospect over the next 5 years looks like more of the same. Less money every year. Already my kids only have physical education two times per week. Music is only once per week. My kindergartener came home last year from library day with a terribly inappropriate collection of horror stories (all about murder and blood and crime). Why? Because we no longer can staff librarians in any of the elementary schools.
I went to public elementary school in California in the 80’s and received a wonderful education. We had PE every day. We had a full-time librarian. I learned to play the flute because in 4th, 5th and 6th grade we had music lessons three times per week where every child learned an instrument — and a real one, not just the recorder. In public school. Now California schools are probably in the same boat as Oregon schools — maybe even worse, in a bankrupt state. And why? Because no one wants to pay for schools. No one actually wants to vote on measures and propositions that will fund schools, because it means more money out of their pockets.
I found this very interesting chart (below) on the ED.gov website. At first glance it looks like the graph is trending in the right direction, right? Why do we have any issues, we have raised the per-pupil spending from $3,400 in 1965 to $8,997. But here is the drum roll, people. If you take $3,400 in 1965 and you use an index to see what it equals in today’s dollars, it is the equivalent of $19,231. Now your jaw can drop, and you can realize how much funding we have actually cut out of our schools since 1965.
Don’t get me wrong. I am smack in the middle class group that probably pays the most taxes. I pay a lot of taxes. And I don’t want to pay more. But what is the alternative? If the public schools are not funded, I am going to have to figure out a way to pay anyway — because I will have to pull my kids out of the system and pay for private school. One way or another I will have to figure out a way to pay, because education is important to me. Wouldn’t it be better to fund our schools and continue to be that first world country, the world power that actually acts like one?
So what can I do besides rant and rave? I am doing everything I can. I am trying to work with a group of Edison School parents to start a foundation for the school, so we can raise funds and create an endowment. I built a website for Edison school on www.givetoedison.com to help parents understand all the programs like eScrip that can donate money to Edison. I signed up for a Paypal account for the school so we can take credit card donations on our Parent Council website, which I built. I am lucky enough to be part of the 4J School District Superintendent Selection Committee to help select our next superintendent. What else can I do?